The reporting on how the President decided he’d meet with Kim Jong Un, as well as how he decided to implement tariffs, shows that the US Interagency planning and decision making process has completely broken down.
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) March 9, 2018
Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair provides additional details:
With the departures of Hope Hicks and Gary Cohn, the Trump presidency is entering a new phase—one in which Trump is feeling liberated to act on his impulses. “Trump is in command. He’s been in the job more than a year now. He knows how the levers of power work. He doesn’t give a fuck,” the Republican said. Trump’s decision to circumvent the policy process and impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum reflects his emboldened desire to follow his impulses and defy his advisers. “It was like a fuck-you to Kelly,” a Trump friend said. “Trump is red-hot about Kelly trying to control him.”
Decision making by fit of pique… Wonderful!
The US Interagency process was established to provide all the relevant agencies, departments, bureaus, and offices to provide inputs for planning and decision making. To facilitate the flow of information. And to make it easier for the President to make decisions. From the US Air Force’s description of the Interagency Process:
The interagency is not a formal structure but rather the established process for coordinating executive branch decision making when issues involve multiple agencies of the government. Each major issue area has different sets of actors and different sets of formal and informal guidelines that govern interagency activities.
The most senior interagency organization is the National Security Council (NSC) and it includes four statutory members: the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of Central Intelligence serve as advisors to the Council. In practice, each administration has chosen to include additional cabinet-level officials to participate in NSC deliberations in response to the President’s expressed need for policy advice on national security affairs. Under The National Security Act of 1947, the National Security Council administers the interagency process for national security matters. It emphasizes the need for integration of agency policy to improve overall effectiveness of national security decision-making: The function of the Council shall be to advise the President with respect to the integration of domestic, foreign, and military policies relating to the national security so as to enable the military services and the other departments and agencies of the Government to cooperate more effectively in matters involving the national security. Reporting to the Council is a number of subordinate committees. Although each administration adjusts these structures as it sees fit, the structure described below has been fairly consistent through a number of administrations and will likely be similar to any structure put in place in the future.
The structure looks something like this, which is from RDML Roberti’s 2011 briefing on the Interagency process:
As the Air Force’s instructional manual explains, the benefits of the process are:
While integrated pol-mil planning does not guarantee success in a complex contingency operation, it does increase the likelihood of success by ensuring that:
- various U.S. agencies plan operations using the same purpose, mission and objectives
- all aspects of the operation are coordinated at the policy level
- key issues and requirements are identified and addressed early on in the planning process
- interagency planning process clearly assigns responsibility for distinct elements of an operation to specific senior administration officials
- critical decisions about priorities and allocation of resources are made early on
One of the first things that LTG McMaster fixed when becoming National Security Advisor was the Interagency process that his predecessor had never really bothered with. Gen Kelly established a process to ensure the information flow to the President to weed out unnecessary and inaccurate information, as well as limiting access to the President to prevent “drive bys”. That the Interagency process has not just broken down, but that the President purposefully broke because he is frustrated with the very real, very necessary, and very important processes and restrictions that come with the office of the president and angry with the professionals that established them for him and his administration and are working to maintain them for his own good is a very, very bad development. No good can come from this. No good at all.
We are truly off the looking glass and through the map!